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NOLS-Style Rationing

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NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:20 am

I could have sworn I posted a similar question a while back but I can't find it, so here goes (again?):

Has anybody on this board tried the NOLS-type rationing system for a longer backpacking trip? The idea is that instead of planning individual meals (and possibly buying prepackaged freeze-dried dinners, breakfasts, and so on) you bring a batch of general ingredients (instant rice, instant beans, potato flakes, seasonings, gorp, cereal, etc.) allocated by weight. They have formulas in their book <http://tinyurl.com/dcg23v> for how much to allocate for breakfast foods, lunch/snack foods, and dinner foods, depending on number in group, season, difficulty of terrain, and so on. Using just a few basic recipes, and improvising, you mix this stuff up in different ways each day.

I've always done meal planning in the past, but I'm thinking of trying this method for our upcoming JMT trip. I'd love to hear from someone who has actually done it. It looks like it might be a good way to cut down on bulk (we found it absolutely impossible to get 10 days worth of food into an expedition Bearikade last time, and that's just not right!), and of course it would be much less expensive than commercial backpacking food, but I'm concerned about the length of time it might take in the evening to dither about what to make and then to cook it, and fuel use (since everything has to be simmered, at least for a while). On the last JMT trip I found evening cooking and setting up camp really trying, especially during the first week of the trip, and I'm afraid this might make it worse.

Anyway, good suggestions would be appreciated.

-B²



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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby oldranger » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:23 pm

Bill,

As I often do I'm not going to answer your question :paranoid: . I wasn't aware of the NOLS "system," but after reading the food thread that you started earlier this year I decided that I would open all of the individual packets that I usually use and then package them in bulk. And the bulk items that I usually repackage in daily servings I will put in larger ziplock bags. That way I should reduce packaging and pack the storage bags less than full so that everything will pack together in the Bearicade (as someone in the thread pointed out) much better than bags stuffed full. Now I haven't done it yet so I don't know how it will work. But since my July trip into s. Yosemite has been expanded to about 2 weeks it had better work or I will either be slightly illegal when I enter the park or be living off of fish for the last few days!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby maverick » Fri Apr 17, 2009 3:54 pm

I pack my freeze dried dinners into individual gal sized freezer zip lock bags and
just add boiling water at dinner, then place the bag into the pot with a pot cozy
around it, and 10 min's latter I have dinner(eat right out of the bag), no dishes or
pots to be washed.
The meals are much flatter than the original packaging therefore you can get
more into your canister.
10 days worth of food is really hard to get into a canister unless you really diligent
into packing your food and even then you may need to carry a Ursack for a
day or two's worth of food overflow.
You'll be on the JMT so you can plan the first 2 days to be in the vicinity of bear boxes
which may solve your problem of dealing with over flow.
Carrying evo(extra-virgin olive oil) to up you calories is a good idea, incorporate it
into you lunch and dinners, get a regular and one flavored (garlic, basil, or chili) to
change up the flavors.
I know the 2 times I did it I was eating like an animal by the day 6-7, but then again
not everyone does multi 20-25+ days.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby hikerduane » Fri Apr 17, 2009 7:51 pm

My next door neighbor used to go out a month at a time without a resupply and used lots of pasta and olive oil. Of course, he is due for hip replacement now and had a knee worked on last summer.:(
Piece of cake.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:10 pm

hikerduane wrote:My next door neighbor used to go out a month at a time without a resupply and used lots of pasta and olive oil. Of course, he is due for hip replacement now and had a knee worked on last summer.:(

Um... you're not trying to say that he had to have his hip replaced because of the pasta and olive oil, are you? :p
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby hikerduane » Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:30 pm

He retired a year or two ago, I think too many miles with a heavy pack all those years, back in the '70's and '80's when he was a little footloose. He makes cabinets and does general wood working. He is short and heavy, maybe too much up and down ladders also. He is also remodeling the place he bought next to me, I'm sure all of that has not helped.
Piece of cake.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby huts » Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:42 am

Hi. NOLS graduate here.
Extremely heavy packs!!!!!!! (heaviest pack I ever tried to carry on the start of a three week trip, even with a food drop 1/2 way!)
It was horrifying to see how much food was "left-over" at the 1/2 way and the end of the trip. It was an absolute mountain of food and we had carried it for what? Almost everything had to be cooked. We even had flour and yeast for baking bread.......
The amount of weight per day used by NOLS may be right for some, too little for others? too much or even way too much for the rest of us depending on temperature, activity level, length of trip, body reserves, etc. I learned to adjust for my personal needs.
I don't plan out each and every meal even now but the majority of my weight is in "lunch", no-cook stuff. The amount of fuel needed is less and I can spend more time fishing, painting, lying on the rocks after a swim,....... instead of in the kitchen.
Last edited by huts on Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:52 am

NOLS graduate and instructor for 7 years.

The "method" is not weight dependent. It simply is bulk food planning versus meal-by-meal planning. The amount of food that is rationed on NOLS courses is based on long-term backpacking and teaching cooking. The average backpacker will probably not want to bake yeast bread but that is part of the NOLS ciriculum of classes. And a little extra food is rationed because beginners often make mistakes - drop food in the dirt, burn meals, etc. On the courses I taught (13 of them) we rarely had extra food - more common we ran out of food and had to re-distribute food the last few days before re-rationing. Most of my courses were 18-24 year old males, who regularly ate 3000 calories or more per day!

The bulk method is very efficient for large expeditions. Most climbing expeditions (like those that go to Everest) use this method.

First you decide how many pounds per person per day. This involves looking at nutritional balance, your groups appetite, the amount of freeze dried food vs. regular dry food. The poundage will likely be between 1 and 2 pounds per person per day. If you are over 2 pounds, you probably are taking too much or the wrong kind of food; if under 1 pound you will not likely be able to sustain yourself for long-term hikes (like 30 days or more). For example, if you are going out 15 days with 4 people and taking 1.5 pounds per person per day that would be 15 x 1.5 x 4 = 90 pounds food, or in other words 22.5 pounds that each person will carry at the start of the trip. A little research on nutritional components of food and setting up a spreadsheet works very well. This way you can check on calories, protien, carbs, fats and customize for your own needs.

Second, you break that 90 pounds into proportions of basic food types - such as grains, dairy products, meat substitiutes, sugars, oils, etc. There is no reason you could not also break this down into breakfasts , lunch food, dinners, drinks. The NOLS cookbooks specify poundages for each basic food type based on nutritional requirements. So lets just say you want 30% of the food for breakfast, 30% for lunches/snacks and 40% for dinner. This gives you 27 pounds of breakfast stuff, 27 pounds of lunch stuff, 36 pounds of dinner stuff.

Now you are ready to break down each catagory into specific items for a grocery list. Lets take breakfast. 27 lb. 9 lb oatmeal, 8 lb Malt-o-Meal, 2 lb powdered milk, 1 lb almonds, 1 lb walnuts, 1 lb raisins, 1 lb FD fruit, 1 lb brown sugar, 2 lb margarine or butter, 1lb pound latte drink mix.

Next, go to the store and purchase the items.

Next, re-pack items in plastic bags - usually 1/2 pound to 1 pound per bag. Use regular bags and tie closed. Zip locks tend to not work well because when you pour out the food the lock mechanizm gets plugged.

When on the trip, just decided, say on Day 2, that you want oatmeal with walnuts. You manage the volume of food with proportions - 1 part water to 1 part oatmeal (for instant). Some may prefer to measure with their cup - after a while you get pretty good at just estimating. You then cook one big pot of cereal for all 4 people. NOLS uses 4-person cook groups.

You sort of eat what you want when you want. You do not get hung up on rationing out, say, 4 trail bars per day. Some days you eat litte, some days you eat a lot. Over the long term it amazingly works out quite well.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby huts » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:00 pm

Hi Daisy!
You started by saying the the "method" is not weight dependent but then confirmed what I remember being taught - that the quantity of food is based on a certain number of pounds per day. I don't mean to be argumentative but this sounds like a contradiction unless I am misunderstanding something.

Currently I use a hybrid model of food planning. I loosely plan meals and double check by weight. I also have access to a pretty good database with nutritional value for different foods. I carry about a pound a day and it seems to be just right for me. I still come out with a little extra but I think that is a good idea. Less fuel, less food = lighter pack. I would think less calories expended as well.

But I am not doing "expeditions". Ten days max is what I can carry and that is about the same length of my body reserves. About that time I want a salad. Maybe a cheese burger. Certainly a beer!

How do you plan food for your personal trips? And, yes, I did bake bread. Twice.

Happy Trails!
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:09 pm

by "weight dependant" I meant that it is not based on a set weight. A previous poster implied that the NOLS ration was heavy - whether it is heavy or light depends on what YOU choose as your "pounds per person per day" number. It is just a matter of if you plan and package each meal separately or package food in bulk bags according to food types.

I only use the bulk food method if I am doing the food for a long trip with several people. Most people want to see each meal set out in front of them - sort of a comfort thing. If you have never used bulk rationing, you may feel a bit anxious when looking out at bags of ingredients versus actual meals. It takes some getting used to. But for large groups, it is MUCH easier.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:26 pm

Huts- I find your personal experience unusual. When did you take your NOLS course?

It does not matter if "some eat more", "some eat less" - that is the point of group rationing. You ration the average used by the group. As time passes, the big eaters run out of food. There is usually enough left from the "small"eaters to compensate. We would put all the food in a pile and re-distribute it at least once if not twice between rations. And yes, I remember this rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way! Especially the food hoarders. Like, "I saved my raisins and now you are giving it to someone else"! This is all part of training for expeditions - where you act as a group, not an individual. A bit "communistic" you say- well, yes a bit. But the point is that as an expedition you succeed or fail based on the weakest link. It also rubbed some the wrong way when someone in the group was lagging, and we instructors would then take some of the weight off that person and make the stronger folks carry it for the day. It is sort of like insurance - some day you may be the sick one and would be mightly grateful if others took some of your load. The "expedition", not the individual, is a strong underlying theme of any NOLS course.

And yes, all the food requires cooking. That is because teaching cooking is a big part of NOLS. It sounds like your course instructors perhaps did not do a good job of teaching cooking. I was always amazed that on my courses, almost all mountaineering courses, the students raved most about the cooking classes! Everyone just loved it! You should also have had a concluding class on rationing near the end of the course, explaining in detail why you had the food you had and comparing it with alternate methods of rationing.

All that said, I agree, that the NOLS "method" is not one that most solo backpackers would use. But believe me, if you had to buy and package rations for a Himilayan expedition of 60 days, with 10 people, you would use it.
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Re: NOLS-Style Rationing

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:39 pm

Sorry - forgot to answer your last question. I use meal-by-meal planning when I solo - usually max of 12 days. I use the bulk food method when doing a long trip with a group. My daughter and I did an 18-day trip without resupply and I did bulk rationing then. We had a bit too much food, but that was because the fishing was fabulous! As for cooking, I like to cook and find it relaxing at the end of the day and I like to mix-and-match and create interesting meals. In general, food that requires cooking takes of less room in the bear cannister. When I do long trips with a bear cannister I do not even take trail bars - they take up more room, per calorie, than GORP.

My suggestion is if anyone were interested in the "NOLS method" to try it out before committing to it for a long (ie:JMT) trip. Some like it, some do not. It takes some getting used to.
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